This year was a little unusual, in that budgetary limitations and hype for Anime Expo (which I'm sadly no longer attending; see below) required me to compromise a little. In the end I only had a room from Saturday night through Monday morning. Regardless, I strove to make the best ouf of the convention, even if being a "commuter" altered my view of the convention.
To save on parking costs, I parked at the Tamien VTA station, about a mile and a half from the convention center. A single-ride ticket costs $2, so by the end of the day I only paid $4 for transportation, gas notwithstanding.
The Convention Center VTA Station is, as anyone who has attended Fanime since 2004 knows, conveniently right in front of the San Jose Convention Center. As I walked towards the con center entrance, the familiar aura of anime and Japanese pop media subculture, one that swept by only once a year at this location, came back to me, reminding me that I'm in the same block as thousands of fellow fans.
It was a Day 0 like any other--people picking up badges, waiting in line for the gaming hall, and such. Like last year, the line for badge pickup was practically nonexistent--it would appear that "LineCon" had become effectively extinct. Fanime had gone from being the convention of eight-hour registration lines in 2012 and 2013 to, in the words of one of my other friends: "There are many questions I ask myself and one of these is: Why do we still have to weave in this non-existant line?!"
I was considering throwing on my blue wig so I could properly cosplay as Persona 3's male protagonist, but for most of the day I just skimped on it because I was not exactly in the mood to cosplay him. Being at a convention not in cosplay feels...empty. I'm not used to being at a con in normal clothes; I feel like I have such minimal presence when not in a cosplay. No one asking for photos or starting up a conversation about my character or the like.
After picking up my press badge and spending a little time in gaming, I made my way to the Swap Meet line. Last year, the Swap Meet was held in the City National Civic, a poor choice as the auditorium offered very small floor space for the swap meet, forcing staff to maintain a line at all times. This time, the Swap Meet was hosted in the South Hall, i.e. the blue tent just south of the con center building. The line to get in hugged the north outer wall of the convention, and though it was scheduled to open at 7:30 PM, it wasn't actually open until 7:50 PM. However, once the line was eased into the hall, the line was effectively nonexistent, as the South Hall had more than enough space to accomodate sellers and buyers--indeed, once I stepped out of the hall about an hour later, there was no line at all. I mostly just window-shopped and looked for friends, as I was on a limited budget for this convention.
There wasn't much else to do, so I spent a little time in the gaming room. Among the usual assortment of rhythm games, light gun games, and fighting games, one of the more unique attractions was Tetris: The Grand Master 3. Yes, the infamous Tetris game with the memetically infamous "Invisible Tetris" segment and "Shirase" mode.
|Pictured: VS mode with Shirase mode speeds. Not pictured: The "oh crap!" reactions of the two players upon realizing the "Shirase" part.|
Before I could head to the convention center, my friend (who I will refer to as R from this point forward) picked me up to take me to Costco. R and I went to purchase supplies for ourselves and our hotel roommates, including water and some other goods. We also got lunch there--after all, Costco is well-known for its extremely cheap food court.
For parking, we took to an open-air lot west of the convention center, hunting for open spaces. R dropped me off and went off to continue finding a spot.
As I got dropped off, I had a quick realization: I had misplaced my water bottle! Fortunately I made a trip to the lost and found room, where I was asked to descibe the bottle I was lost. I got my bottle back with no problems and I made a quick fill-up at Con Ops before heading off. Remember folks: keep yourselves hydrated at cons!
R came to me a few hours later with a few complaints already, specifically the policies on weapon props, especially gun props. They had tried to get their sniper rifle gun prop peace-bonded, trying tricks such as removing accessories like the scope and hoping that they can get by with just the stock. Unfortunately, this didn't work out so well; R soon was faced with convention staff who told them that gun props were not only disallowed inside the convention center, but in the area immediately surrounding the convention center. After talking to Con Ops about this issue, R and staff were able to come to a compromise: They could carry their prop outside the con center, but not inside.
R isn't the only congoer to have issues with weapon policies--many others have raised similar complaints about their weapon props getting denied peacebonding in recent years. The safety of convention attendees is of course a major concern, but there are those who feel that cosplay prop policies are getting too harsh in recent years, as for a large number of characters, the weapon is a very important part of cosplaying the character.
I've had a few issues with peacebonding myself. As I've mentioned many times before, I cosplay Reimu Hakurei from Touhou Project, and one of her iconic props is her gohei--a wooden rod with a couple zigzag paper tassels at the end of it. Some conventions have asked me to get it peacebonded, even though the rod component of the gohei is so light that it couldn't possibly hurt anybody unless I pushed it directly and deliberately into someone's eye. Other conventions are more relaxed about it; at Anime Expo 2013, I was told by staff that it was not necessary to peacebond my gohei at all. Perhaps the most ridiculous case so far I've had is at Sac-Anime Summer 2013, when I was told I needed to have my umbrella peacebonded. Yes, an umbrella.
But enough about weapon prop policies, perhaps I'll save this for another story.
Fanime was business as usual otherwise; double-sized dealer's hall and a gaming room mostly the same with a few more music games. The Artist's Alley was expanded to provide more room; walking space was an issue last year.
The weather this time around was surprisingly chilly, to the point where it proved to be a deterrent from me going to panels, as the panels were hosted at the Fairmont. It didn't help that none of my cosplays were particularly well-suited for cold weather; all of the cosplays I brought for this day onwards involved skirts that went down to the knee at most, and the most cover I had was a shawl for my Renko Usami cosplay, which didn't cover much.
Around 11 PM or so, R and I needed to get some rest, but we didn't have our room yet. Fortunately R was kind enough to let me sleep at their place for the night, so they took me to their home where we rested up. It felt a little awkward for me, sleeping away from convention proximity while the convention is still taking place. But hey, I can't have everything, and I still got to attend all five days.
Day 2 is Saturday and was my "busy" day of the 5-ish days of the convention.
R and I got up around 8 AM or so, eating breakfast at home before being driven to the convention centre by their father. Arrival time: Around 10 AM or so.
Once there, I stepped into the Sainte Claire to check to see if we could check in early yet. I've once been able to check in as early as 10 AM at a different hotel, so I was hoping it would be the case here as well. Unfortunately, nope, so we would have to wait until 3 PM. For the time being, I went to the bathroom to change into my Renko cosplay, which I would need for two gatherings later.
The Touhou gathering was at 11 AM, an irritatingly early time slot for a number of people. Turnout came to about 15-20 cosplayers, same as last year. There have been concerns lately about why Touhou gatherings have been small, but for the most part, the gathering went smoothly.
There was still time before the next gathering for me to attend, so R and a couple other friends and I went to Bo Town, a Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant a few blocks away on San Salvador St. and 3rd St. We ordered a few dishes to frontload ourselves with nutrition, including chow mein, mabo tofu, and fried tofu. The bill came out to be $32, or $8 for each of us four. For those who have lunch in groups, it's a good deal for those who are conscious of their food budgets.
|Me committing a foodcrime of East Asian cuisine: Putting soy sauce on rice. Or am I?|
Time passed and it soon became 2 PM, the time of the Touhou Project x Kantai Collection gathering. Touhou and KanColle have a bit of overlap in terms of fanbase; both series involve personifications of Japanese history (various Asian mythologiesin Touhou, the ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy in KanColle), and both scenes are known for their many, many memes, such as Touhou's "Take it easy!" and KanColle's "Poi~!" Unfortunately, both fanbases have been known to get into a few verbal scuffles, which is perhaps the motivation to create this particular cross-fandom gathering, as an opportunity for both fandoms to make (playful!) jabs at each other while accepting each other's presence. It was modestly sized, a bit more than the Touhou gathering, but it did its job in helping fans of both series have fun with one another.
The Kantai Collection gathering was up next, but I wanted to check in as soon as possible, so I promprtly went to the Sainte Claire lobby to check in. Notably, I did not incur a deposit fee for this stay; apparently, this is because I reserved outside of the Fanime discount, and this was indeed my first time reserving a room not through a conventon deal. After taking the time to admire the unique architecture and furnishings of the lobby, I got a couple keys for the room and went up with my roommates to our suite.
Surprisingly, the suite wasn't that large; it was about the size of a usual hotel room. It did have some stand-out qualities, including a cushioned bench that also served as a makeshift bed, a large plasma screen, a simulated fireplace, and a bathroom with a "rainfall"-type showerhead and a handheld showerhead connected by double doors. One of my other roommates, C, brought their PC in, and R and I watched as C played a few Touhou fan games and Just Cause 2 over a few responsibly-rationed cups of margaritas.
7 PM came and we were to head to the Touhou post-gatheirng dinner in Japantown. It was off to a rocky start as the organizers had Japantown in mind but didn't decide on precise locations for food just yet, but everyone was in J-Town we all somewhat went off into small groups, with some of us going to Nijiya Market for microwavable dishes, some to the sushi restaurant, and C and R and I going to Kumako Ramen for ramen, a small curry bowl, and karaage. The food there is okay, and there is a variety of options, including curry ramen, but there is a minimum $7.50 charge per person, which may have to do with the small dining space of the restaurant.
Following that I was starting to get particularly sleepy, thanks in no small part to the poor amount of sleep I got the night before; cons are not known for being environments where one can squeeze in the full eight hours of sleep after all. I went back to my room, contemplating going back down to the con grounds, but decided to just take off my cosplay and evetually go to sleep.
After how frantic the day before was, I decided that this day was going to be my "me day", eschewing group plans in favor of spending time with individual friends or by myself. This was also the day where I put on my maid cosplay, which seems to have become my new "signature" cosplay. It isn't of a particular character, I just wanted a maid uniform to wear.
Most of my time for this day was spent either in the gaming hall or wandering the concourse, Dealer's Hall despite not having money allocated for goods there, or the Artist's Alley.
I had considered going to the Fairmont for panels, but it was colder than usual and my maid uniform wasn't exactly the warmest of cosplays due to the short sleeves and thin fabric. Not wanting to make the walk to the Fairmont, my activities on this day primarily remained light.
I only got to see a few of my friends, sadly, so much of this day remained uneventful. After all, I mostly wanted to just relax.
Day 4 was spent doing the usual checkout routine, which went off without any serious problems. I had my luggage checked in again so I could come back for it later.
At this point I was straight up out of budget for this convention, so all I could eat until I got home was a muffin, one of many that one of my roommates was kind enough to bring.
There wasn't really a whole lot to do as usual, just make final sweeps in the badged areas and the like.
I left the con grounds around 3 PM, changing back into ordinary clothes before going to a milk tea cafe to chat with friends. I called my parents to pick me up so I could come home to a lot of food to eat to make up for my weak eating habits. A low-budget ending for a low-budget con, but there's always next year.
Going to Fanime as a "commuter" for the first time since 2007 gave me a different perspective on the convention, as opposed to being in a hotel room for all five-ish nights. I couldn't do a lot of late night activities, and sleeping at my friend's house about 5 miles away gave me a sense of disconnecton from the convention. Still though, I enjoyed myself as best as I could at the convention and as much as my limited budget would allow me.
I'm glad to see that registration line issues are effectively history at this point, something that other conventions big and small still struggle with; Anime Expo last year notoriously had people waiting outdoors in temperatures exceeding 35 C, with some attendees getting heat strokes in the process. Perhaps Fanime's super-efficient registration queue serves as a challenge to other conventions to do the same, if not better.
I could've gone to some panels, but I didn't because they were all the way in the Fairmont. While it is an inconvenient walk, I partly attribute my lack of attendence to myself, as I wasn't wearing clothes suited for evening weather and simply was too lazy about it.
As for the weapon policy fiasco earlier: I just want to say that I'm glad none of my current cosplays have weapons. California is...not exactly the best state to wear a cosplay that comes with a gun prop, to put it lightly.
This Fanime felt a bit empty overall but that's kind of my fault. Next year I intend to plan out so that I can give myself more things to do than just wander halls for ten hours, as well as a larger spending budget so that my convention experience doesn't feel like poverty.